Photographer Marc Mol recently had a delightful and unexpected encounter while on a trip to South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. As he focused his Nikon D3s DSLR and 500mm f/4 lens on a group of hippos, something caught his attention—a baby hippo being spooked by a flock of birds that had landed on its back.
Mol was crouched low in a river hide along the banks of the Luangwa River, fully engrossed in photographing the hippos. Suddenly, the young hippo started running toward him, seemingly chased by the flock of birds.
Capturing the moment, Mol witnessed the baby hippo screaming, seeking the safety of its mother, and twisting side-to-side in an attempt to rid itself of the “attackers.” It was an amusing sight, as the photographer quickly realized that the culprits were a small flock of oxpeckers.
Typically, hippos and oxpeckers have a symbiotic relationship—the birds groom the hippos by feeding on ticks and parasites while enjoying a meal. However, in this case, the baby hippo seemed unaware of its feathered friends and found their presence a bit overwhelming.
According to Mol, the baby hippo was clearly unfamiliar with the red and yellow oxpeckers on its back. The encounter lasted only a few seconds before the young hippo had had enough. Nevertheless, as time goes on, the baby will likely come to accept that these birds mean no harm.
For Mol, these photographs serve as a reminder of the unexpected joys that nature and wildlife photography bring. It’s a testament to the fact that when you venture into the world of wild animals with your camera, you never know exactly what fascinating moments you’ll capture.
“These images brought a smile to my face when I realized that I had captured something a little different and yet very amusing,” says Mol. “I love the expression on this little guy’s face as he frantically tries to fend off what he sees as annoying pests.”
This adorable encounter serves as a testament to the wonders of the natural world, where even the most unexpected moments can bring joy and laughter. Credit goes to Marc Mol for capturing these endearing photographs that remind us of the delightful surprises nature has in store for us.